Katherine MacAlister hates the word fusion so what will she make of Shan Shui at Bicester Village?

They must have found their second wind at Bicester Village, because I’ve visited twice in as many weeks, new restaurants opening up faster than you can say Oscar de la Renta.

Last time it was the glamorous Wolseley with its gleaming Art Nouveau interior, on this occasion Shan Shui, a new Asian fusion restaurant.

Personally, the mere mention of the word fusion usually sends shudders down my taste buds, being used too often to cloak a multitude of sins, an easy way of being non-specific or a licence to bung anything you fancy in the pot and give it a good stir.

And yet there were a few life rafts to cling to, namely Ellen Chew’s passion for her restaurants. She has eight different sites currently, having started in the noodle market when she moved to London from Singapore and moving onto concepts such as Rasa Sayang, a Singaporean/Malaysian restaurant in London’s Chinatown and tapas restaurants Lobos in Borough and Soho.

But with a Shanghainese grand-mother, and a healthy shopping habit, Ellen noticed that Chinese tourists at Bicester Village were unable to find authentic Chinese cuisine there.

Cue Shan Shui which offers traditional Shanghainese dishes as well as an eclectic array from South-East Asia all wrapped up in a cutesie 1920s Shanghai interior.

Its walls boast Ellen’s old pictures of her family and a collection of Chinese paraphernalia, handed down from her parents and grandparents.

More relaxed than The Wolseley and less of an occasion place,Shan Shui has maintained the extensive menu formula we expect, which meant there were numerous offerings I’ll have to go back for because the table just wasn’t big enough.

As it was, we did revoltingly well, needing assistance to get to the car afterwards, the memory of classics like the spring rolls and satay chicken (Malaysian) or the seaweed, not freeze-dried as expected but soft and unctuous and surprisingly refreshing,

We added an order of the wok fried seasonal greens only because we’d seen them taken to someone else’s table and they looked divine, some chicken noodles, pan fried gyoza and the vegetable dumplings.

The crispy wasabi prawns (Japanese) were a steep £10.95, a lot for a ‘small plate’ as was the calamari seasoned with ginger in a soy, coriander and oyster sauce but the dim sum were all under £5.50 and the bao buns a highlight, being as soft, light and bouncy as we’d hoped for.

First however we tried the short but inspired cocktail list; the Singapore Sling with gin and pineapple, and the Shanghai Prohibition, made with vodka and lemongrass.

Having brought my son and his friend, their eyes bulged as dish after dish appeared at our table, and immediately got well stuck in to the various offerings.

And that’s the wonder of Chinese food; because for some reason we are much happier to experiment and push the boat out, the further East it gets.

Next up, the generous mains – a plate of South East Asian fried chicken with a plum and chilli sauce (£12.95), the wok fried ginger beef (£13.95) some beef rendang (Malay) and the chilli prawns, all accompanied with noodles and jasmine rice, and all moreish.

We tested our chopsticks to the limit – slippery noodles proving the ultimate challenge, as we shared the dishes between us, a communal event. I’d forgotten what a lovely way it is to dine.

Full to the brim, dessert was a no-no until I glimpsed the ice cream mochi on the menu their plump, soft, jelly-like exterior positively quivering in their effort to contain the ice cream within (mango, coconut and chocolate), an epic end to a delicious meal.

“I always eat things I’ve never tried before when I come out with you,” the teens imparted as they hoisted me back to the car.

And we forget that Ellen is not only catering for the Chinese themselves here, and those of us brought up on the excitement of authentic Chinese restaurants, but also a whole new generation who have no idea what authentic Chinese food tastes like, fusion or not.

Shan Shui

Unit 156, Pringle Drive, Bicester Village, OX26 6EU